Content Management Systems and Joomla
A web page is a set of instructions, HTML (or XHTML) that
tell the browser you are using how to present the content of the page. So for
example, the code might say “take this title ‘My Web Page’, make it big and
make it red”.
This way of creating a web page is pretty outdated, yet it’s
astonishing how many web designers are creating sites like this. It has two main
of the content (My Web Page) and the presentation (big and red) are tied
together. If you want to change the color of all your titles, you have to
go through all 425 of them and do so.
pages are large in file size. Because each bit of content is individually
styled, the pages are big, which means slow. Most experts agree that this
also penalizes you search engine optimization efforts.
The next step towards understanding content management is a
recent (last 4-5 years) development of web standards, a common set of rules for all web browsers how to show a web page. One of these
standards is the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to control the look and
layout of your web page, CSS is a simple mechanism for adding style (e.g.
fonts, colors, spacing) to web documents. All of this presentation information is contained in separate files to the content.
Now the file that contains all the content is a lot smaller,
it contains only the content and no presentation. All of the styling has been
placed in a separate file that is read by the browser and layered over the
content to produce the final result.
and revising the page is much easier. If you need to change all the title
colors, you just need to change one line in the CSS file.
files are much smaller. The CSS file has the additional advantage that it
will be cached (saved) on the viewers local computer so wonÂ’t need to be
downloaded from the web each time they visit a page.
An example of this can be
seen at www.csszengarden.com. This
classic CSS site is actually identical content with different CSS applied to
it. You can browse through the designs and see the same content styled in
hundreds of different ways
The Least You Need
Modern websites separate
content from presentation using a technology known as Cascading Style Sheets
Now for the content management system.
A CMS does for content what CSS does for presentation.
Read that again carefully. Where CSS separated presentation
out from content, a CMS separates the content from the page. That might seem
like that leaves nothing, but in reality what is left can be thought of as
Â“placeholdersÂ”. This can be represented like the figure below.
The “put some content here” is an instruction to the CMS to
take some content from a database, the “pure content”, and place it in a
designated place on the page.
Now, that seems like it is not such a useful trick, but in
fact itÂ’s very powerful.
It separates out the responsibilities of developing a web
site. The web designer can concern themselves with the presentation/design and
the placeholders. This means that non-technical people can be responsible for
the content, the words and pictures of a web site. Most CMSÂ’s have built in
tools to manage the publication of the content.
The pages are now dynamic. They don’t really exist until you
follow a link to view them. This means that they can be updated/customized
based on the viewer. For example if you place an item in a shopping cart, that
item now shows up on the shopping cart page. It got stored in a database and
now gets put into the Â“shopping cart placeholderÂ”. Many complex web
applications are in fact mini CMSÂ’s (by this definition) like forums, shopping
carts, guest books to name a few. You may have used a Blog before. Based on how
we have described it, these are a good example of a CMS, they have a Â“templateÂ”
that presents all the content, “the posts” and they are very easy to edit and
The Least you Need
A CMS totally separates
the content from any other part of the web pages. This makes changing the page
The CMSÂ’s available range hugely from enterprise scale versions
costing $300,000 to free open sources ones such as Joomla. The modern CMS is
usually defined by its abilities to manage and publish content. They have work
flow processes that start at content creation and move to publishing. Most do
far more, they have the ability to add on a wide range of extensions or add-ons
to add functionality of the site. From forums to newsletters, Joomla has over
500 available to it most of which are available for free, created by volunteer
developers around the world. The official repository is at extensions.joomla.org and has a rating
and review system (which is itself an extension!).
The Joomla Extensions site
has a rating and review system. ItÂ’s worth being careful with how to use the
ratings. The highest rated extensions are shown at the top level of the site.
This means that they get more traffic and then tend to get rated more. There
are often great extensions that are hidden away in the categories. ItÂ’s worth
taking an hour or two to browse all of them to find ones that might be of use
There is one large drawback to using a CMS. They can be
extremely complex, containing thousands of files and scripts that work together
in concert with databases to present a web site. Normally this means that a CMS
site will be designed and created by technical staff and managed and run by
non-technical users. Joomla probably has one the lowest technological threshold
to actually build a CMS site among currently available CMSÂ’s. ThatÂ’s
specifically the purpose of this guide, to guide a non-technical user step by
step in learning how to create and manage a web site powered by Joomla.
Static Web Site
Content Management System
Easy to create initial web pages
To create initial pages is time consuming as several
Content is static, changing it requires technical
Content is dynamic, can be changed with no technology
Difficult to add new functions, often need custom code
Most CMSÂ’s have many extensions that Â“plug inÂ” easily